Northern communities face threat of climate change – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – January 25, 2018)

TIMMINS – About 120 Indigenous leaders, scientists and government officials are meeting for a conference in Timmins this week to discuss the potential impacts of climate change on First Nation communities within Mushkegowuk region.

The conference, hosted by Mushkegowuk Council, kicked off Wednesday. The prospect of shorter winters is a particular concern to many residents on the James Bay Coast who rely on the ice road to travel south.

Vern Cheechoo, director of lands and resources for Mushkegowuk Council, said if this warming trend continues, it will add to a push for governments to eventually finance an all-season road from the coast. Mushkegowuk Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon said he has observed changes in climate along the coast within his own lifetime.

He urged community leaders to “utilize the knowledge of your Elders” and engage community members and help them “understand what climate change is,” even in the face of some highly publicized skeptics.

“On the other side of the border, there’s a man named Donald Trump,” an observation Solomon made, drawing immediate chuckles from audience members attending the conference. “He doesn’t believe in climate change. He doesn’t believe climate change will do harm to humankind because what he sees is green. He’s a businessman. He’s not a president. He’s a businessman.”

Solomon said, “Many people think climate change is new, but it has been happening over time. And I know for a fact, we in Northern Ontario remote communities will not be immune to climate change.

“We will all be affected. Our children, our grandchildren will be affected. The economy of this country will be affected by climate change.”

Alison Pilla, assistant deputy minister with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, said, “The ministry has heard many stories from community members and recognizes that climate change impacts are already affecting Indigenous ways of life, health, territories and resources. We’ve heard about shorter winters and warmer weather, resulting in fewer days for winter roads that connect you.”

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